Allegations of failure to follow the contractually-required dispute resolution procedure raise “procedural questions,” which must be asked of the arbitrator. In contrast, “substantive arbitrability questions,” also referred to as “gateway questions” of arbitrability, are for the court to decide. Questions of substantive arbitrability address two issues: whether the parties have a valid arbitration agreement, and whether the issue is within the scope of the arbitration agreement.
In determining whether an issue is within the scope of a valid arbitration agreement, the court must initially decide whether the arbitration clause is “broad” or “narrow.” Clauses that provide for arbitrating “any claim arising out of or relating to the contract” are considered broad as a matter of law. When answering questions of scope, courts “must liberally construe a valid arbitration clause, ‘resolving doubts in favor of arbitration. . . .” As a result, even where claims sound in tort, rather than contract, they will be determined to be within the scope of a broad arbitration clause if the claims “touch matters covered by the arbitration clause.”
Finding that plaintiff’s claims against defendant were within the scope of the parties’ agreement, and that questions raised about arbitrability were procedural, and thus for the arbitrator to decide, the Court granted defendant’s motion to compel arbitration.